6 Feb 2023
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Gig Review: Crushfest @ The Tuning Fork, Auckland - 09/07/2022

09 Jul 2022 // A review by Kev Rowland

Back down to The Tuning Fork for a night with six acts, all of whom had just 20 minutes to make an impact. This was going to be a hard one for bands, crew, Ginny and I, but hopefully the fans would have a great time for a great price.

First up were Lost Vessels, a band new to me, who kicked off with the hard-hitting Echoes. Singer Eileen Jolly has a nice punkish approach to the job, which tied in well with the riffing attack from guitarists Cameron Faulkner and Kyle Martin, while drummer Ethan Page and bassist John Faulding provided the platform for them to build on. Ohio has a nice bass line which provides much of the lead melody, with the guys showing they can slow it down and provide powerful contrast in their material. They then threw in a cover with All Time Low’s Six Feet Under The Stars, and by now the crowd were certainly warming up. FuckMyBrain started in the most emo way so far, then riffing hard as they moved into the chorus I(D)OU was another blaster, with everyone riffing hard and Eileen by now relaxing into it and starting to really enjoy herself. One of the major issues for all bands tonight is that generally it takes time to hit the groove and really start kicking, which with only 20 minutes sets was not long enough for that to happen. They finished with Nostalgia, and that was it, but I look forward to catching them again with a longer set as they are packed with energy and hooks.

There has been a temporary line-up change in Venom Dolls since I last saw them as Jessica Frank (vocals, bass) is currently in the UK, but drummer Summah Auvae and guitarist Carawei Gao are still gigging and have brought in bassist Arlo Frances (they/them) and singer Bridie Campbell. They kicked off with Woeman’s Lullaby, which was very fragile at the beginning, but the more they got into it, with Bridie lifting her voice, the stronger they became. Summah was hitting hard right from the off, and Carawei looked as polished and relaxed as ever, with just Arlo looking nervous. It was obvious they were not yet confident in the material which was a shame as it meant the bass wasn’t driving as hard as it should. I was quite taken with Bridie’s vocals though, as she is already singing as if she has always been there. Carawei explained they were currently The Dolls with Jessica overseas, and they had only had two practices to date, and this was the first gig. Don’t Wanna Be is a much slower number, with picked unaccompanied guitar starting it off and then Bridie joining in. It is delicate and fragile, right up to the point it isn’t and then we were off. Obsessed is more in your face yet still with plenty of space – all their material is designed to work around the vocals which is great when you have a singer like Bridie really getting into it. No One Likes Mary Sue was a triumph for her with all the band now locked in and Bridie in full control. She certainly played all the parts in White Knuckle Ride as well, really doing justice to Jessica’s favourite song. 

Now it was time for The Not Okays, which strangely enough meant the third consecutive band with a female lead singer. I have reviewed all three of their singles recently, have interviewed the singer Lauren about her journey and that of the band, but this was the first time I would be seeing Aaron Prictor (guitar, vocals), Noriel Wong (guitar), Caitlin Clark (bass) and Bahador Borhani (drums) onstage. They kicked off with a mashup, with Lauren singing Olivia Rodrigo’s Misery while the band played Paramore’s Good 4 U. While Lauren called the crowd to the stage demanding people dance, all the guys were really into it with loads of energy. Aaron was at the front just riffing hard, while Noriel was so into it that he soon let his hair down! Then we went into their debut single, Bite Me, and this really got the crowd moving with the energy of the band and the intensity of Lauren. There were shouts from the crowd as they recognised the Kiwi classic Sophie, with it being crunched out and Lauren clearly in her element. All the band were relaxed and having fun, which was great to see, with Catlin and Noriel both smiling and enjoying the vibe and then they were off into the next single, Sleeptalk, which they only finished on Monday. This finds Aaron sharing the lead vocals, while B was in his element at the back – I still find it strange to see him on drums instead of guitar, but it was obvious he was having a great time, and no-one would realise he is normally a shredder. Then we were into the funky Better Days, which caused some serious movement from the crowd. They ended with the song from which they took their name, My Chemical Romance’s I’m Not Okay (I Promise), and everyone in the crowd was having a blast, as were the band. This was the song of the night up to this point, as everyone was giving their all, onstage and off, with the words being sung back to the band, Lauren and Aaron harmonised, and it was just awesome. The set was just way too short. 

Next up were Crying Club, which meant we had the first male singer of the night in Datu Beech who also provides guitar, while the rest of the band is Sean Beales (drums/backing vocals), Isaac Lundy (guitar/backing vocals) and Chrissy Panetelakis (bassist/backing vocals). They kicked off with Christmas with a K and right from the off were kicking it with powerful indie rock being drive by the rhythm section who were creating a monster platform. Chrissy was determined to have a great time and was certainly animated and obviously enjoying herself. After powering through Litter Bug they went into The Veronicas’ 4ever which got shouts of recognition from the audience when they heard the riff. They then locked in with one of the best song titles ever, Bad Day To Be A Zebra before launching into the single Taxi Man which I remember reviewing last year. It is certainly far more powerful live than it was in the recording, becoming a real cruncher when Sean has the opportunity to take on the lead vocal role. By now much of the crowd had returned to the front as the band were kicking up a storm but they were running out of time and they would have benefited from having much more time to play as it was only now that people were getting into it, really reacting to the hard groove of How To Say: Sean certainly loves delivering death metal style gruffness! They ended with the guitars locked into harmony as they kicked into A Year From Now and their night was over as well. 

This was the first gig for Stray Dogs, who after ten years and several line-up changes had decided to change their name from Fire For Glory. The line-up was still the same I saw a little while back though, with Josh Pinho (vocals), Cameron Brookes (guitar), Grant Kirkpatrick (drums) and Steve Shyu (bass). It was also the first gig since Steve got engaged to the wonderful Ginelle Cocks, photographer extraordinaire – congrats guys!! They started with an introductory audio which gave no inclination of what was to come, and then they were blasting into their self-titled anthem full of energy combined with hooks and melody – it really is no surprise that they recently were picked up by AAA Records. These guys have all been around, know what they are doing, and were demanding the crowd get involved by sheer force of will. Josh kept getting to the front and putting his foot on the foldbacks as if he has been a frontman all his life, apart from when he was in the air jumping. This is a band who never stop moving and bouncing as they blasted into Smile. Josh is constantly pushing himself, the band and the crowd, with no use for a microphone stand as he is never still, always in perpetual motion. Steve and Grant were locked in while Cameron riffs like a man possessed, and just two songs in the energy levels had certainly increased. They only kept pushing it with Life of the Party, and everyone down the front was becoming a sweaty mess. Josh lives all his lyrics, taking us with him as he mimes some of them, punches the air to emphasise a point at others, while Steve and Cameron also never stop so there is so much energy coming off the stage that it is like a physical force. There is no doubt that My Chemical Romance was the flavour of the night as the guys launched into Teenagers, and of course everyone knew the words - the lights were put on the crowd as they sang along with Grant. They ended the night with Loser, their fastest and most metallic of the night as they ripped into high energy pop punk with a real passion.

The headline band was Holloway from Wellington featuring Lou Valentine (vocals, guitar), Max Long (guitar) and Taylor Criscuola (drums). They also kicked in with an intro track before shifting into Violet, which is more old school punk with lots of space and energy, and while both Lou and Max have blue hair, Taylor was wearing a full-face rubber mask which must have restricted his vision but was not stopping him from hitting everything incredibly hard and very quickly indeed. They use a backing track for the bass and some keyboards which add more depth to the sound. Lou is another one of those people who was born to be a frontman, totally in his element and doing whatever he could to always be the centre of attention. By the time they kicked into Psycho-Sensitive he had put down the guitar so he could run around the stage, doing everything he could to get reactions from the crowd. There was no stopping them by now, increasing the energy levels for The Freak Show, where Lou introduced the band and removed the (what must be by now very smelly and sweaty) rubber mask from Taylor. The keyboard sounds used here are very Eighties in style and certainly add a different touch to the pop punk nature of the band. Date All My Friends is going to be their next hit single (according to Lou) and shows yet another facet of their music as they mix in some lyrics which are spoken so quickly they are almost rap and the energy here comes from Lou and Taylor with Max slowing it all down from his side and this also featured one of the few acapella sections of the night. They slowed it down somewhat with Crush, but there was still room for some pumping riffs and powering fills, while the crowd reacted strongly when they kicked into Panic! At the Disco’s I Write Sins Not Tragedies, singing all the lines to the band. Everyone was having a great time, jumping, and dancing to the sound. Last Dance For Losers found Lou singing through an electronic box to distort the vocals which was a very different sound and feel indeed. This was performed with him sat on the floor, performing this totally solo. Lou strapped a guitar back on for new number If What I Think Is Happening Is Happening, It Better Not Be as the band turned it back up again. They had gone past curfew by now, but the venue kindly allowed them to play one song as an encore as the crowd were demanding it, and they ended the night with another banger, Please Hold. Lou divided the crowd in two and got them all to rush into each other on command, and we even got one person up on shoulders!

A fast and frantic night with six awesome bands. What a show!


Photo Credit: Ginny C PhotographyView the full gallery here

 

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